The Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen – Joshua Cohen is one of those wonderful people who see language as something to be explored rather than navigated through in order to tell a story. It has been five years since his last novel. Like Witz, The Book of Numbers looks set to be a huge, sprawling, difficult, lovely, post-modern kaleidoscope of ideas.
Before the Fire by Sarah Butler – Sarah Butler’s first novel, Ten Things I’ve Learned about Love, was a shooting star. It dazzled. Sharp, funny, and full of heart, it managed to pull off that rare trick of being both literary and appealing to a large audience. I loved it, you loved it, Oprah Winfrey’s website made it book of the week, everyone, yes everyone, loved it. Before the Fire is set in Manchester, in 2011, just before the riots. It is going to be a-maz-ing
The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan – Jenni Fagan is a Granta Best Young British Novelist. The Sunlight Pilgrims is set in a caravan park during what might be the end of days. Need I say more?
Gutshot: Stories by Amelia Gray – The latest collection of short stories from one of the shiny and new and exciting people in American literature. The New York Times calls her work “leaps of faith, brave excursions into the realms of the unreal”. And yes, I did just get that off Wikipedia, but tell me you aren’t interested.
Hall of Small Mammals by Thomas Pierce – The debut collection from the New Yorker regular. Dwarf mammoths brought back from the dead? Helicopter flights over the dead? House breaking? Yes please.
God Help the Child by Toni Morrison – I don’t know what this book is about, it isn’t published until September and I can’t find out much online, but I do know that if there are two things Morrison does well they are wrath and children. Another thing she does well is fiction. Another thing she does well is non-fiction. We are in safe hands here. Very safe hands.
Fram by Steve Himmer – Steve Himmer has the knack of writing about very serious subjects in a very entertaining way. Fram has been described as a “miniature bureaucratic epic somewhere between David Foster Wallace and Jules Verne” which is, to an absolute tee, what Bens like best.
The Queen’s Caprice by Jean Echenoz – A collection of seven stories by one of the daddies of French literature translated into English for the first time. We should probably know more about him, you and I. Maybe you do know more about him. I don’t. I thought I’d start here. I’ll be honest, sometimes this reviewing gig is entirely about getting free copies of books you want to read. I’m not ashamed of that.
The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan – Fans of short stories will already be familiar with Kirsty Logan. The Gracekeepers is her first novel. It is about a circus boat in a flooded world. If the Pinterest wall for the novel is anything to go by it will be a beautiful weird sexy fairytale (possibly with Idris Elba with his top off). Logan is part of the new generation of writers who, thankfully, see the walls between ‘genre’ and ‘literary’ as silly things that should be knocked down. The Gracekeepers should be a blast.
Collected Poems and Drawings of Stevie Smith – An eight-hundred page behemoth collecting all of Stevie Smith’s poetry and drawings is a thing to be looked forward to and cherished. Smith is the most wtf of all the great poets, unsettling the reader by mixing death, misery, classisms, and eerie comedy together, often in a single poem, creating tiny rollercoasters, but rollercoasters that weave through funeral parlours, or something… OK, so that metaphor doesn’t work entirely, but you don’t need me to tell you how important Stevie Smith is do you? You already know.